It’s been nearly 20 years since we saw Roald Dahl’s most iconic character, the eccentric chocolatier Willy Wonka, on the big screen. First in the Gene Wilder classic, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the less successful remake directed by Tim Burton with Johnny Depp stepping into Wilder’s big shoes. Wonka, the upcoming film from Paul King and starring Timothée Chalamet in the lead role offers a twist: it’s a prequel, set to give the enigmatic treat mogul an origin story we didn’t know we needed. The first full-length trailer makes it clear that this won’t be a gritty reboot, as most origin stories woefully are, but a fittingly light romp for someone who made a fortune in sweets.
“I spent the past seven years traveling the world, perfecting my craft. I’m something of a magician, inventor, and chocolate-maker,” Chalamet says at the trailer’s opening. In the trailer, Chalamet is leaning hard into Wonka’s zany charisma, with wide, mischievous eyes and showman bombast. There’s an underdog narrative at play, with the so-called “Chocolate Cartel” attempting to thwart Wonka in his bid to become candy royalty.
There’s a madcap energy to the Wonka trailer, which features musical numbers, a literal flood of melted chocolate, and a technicolor floating balloon sequence. Chalamet—whose last few roles have been the grim cannibal romance Bones and All and burdened hero Paul Atreides in Dune—seems like he’s having a blast, and taking a risk showing a sunnier side of himself than audiences are used to seeing. Chalamet told assembled media at CinemaCon that he was taking a different tack with the legendary candyman, one that would be less “cynical” than Gene Wilder’s 1971 performance or Johnny Depp’s update in Tim Burton’s 2005 flick. “This is a Willy that’s full of joy and hope and desire to become the greatest chocolatier,” Chalamet said.
The movie features an impressive cast that’s as British as a steak and kidney pie. Besides Chalamet, key roles are played by Hugh Grant , Olivia Colman, Ellie White, Sally Hawkins, and Paterson Joseph. Co-writer Simon Farnaby, who has penned some of the great British comedies of the last few years like The Phantom of the Open and Mindhorn (to say nothing of Paddington 2) acts in the movie, too. Grant chews the scenery in the trailer’s final seconds, though getting used to seeing an A-list actor in full Oompa Loompa regalia is going to take some time.
Wonka is slated for release on December 15.